BLIND JOE REYNOLDSBlind Joe Reynolds was the nom-de-Blues of Joe Sheppard, an early Blues singer and guitarist who lived a surprisingly long life, mostly outside the law. Disputed reports of his origins put his birthplace as Tallulah LA in 1904, although others cite somewhere in Arkansas in 1900, and a nephew claims he was actually called Joe Leonard. It is believed that he was blinded by a shotgun blast some time in the mid-20s, although that did not stop him carrying a pistol and using it with some accuracy, owing to an acute sense of hearing. It appears that Joe’s early years were spent in and out of jail, and during his periods of freedom he earned a living playing the Blues.

Joe may have been an associate of Charley Patton, as their work has many stylistic quirks in common, and they might well have travelled the same territory, but what is certain is that they were recommended to Paramount Records by the same ‘scout’ HC Spier. Joe travelled to Grafton WS to Paramount’s studios in November 1929, and cut four tracks there which were credited to ‘Blind Joe Reynolds’ when the records were released. A year later, the field unit for Victor Records cut four more tracks with Joe in Memphis, which completed the entire catalogue of this enigmatic figure. Joe spent the rest of his life as a ‘wandering songster’, playing his Blues in juke-joints and on streetcorners, usually one step ahead of Johnny Law if rumours are to be believed.

Blind Joe’s original version of ‘Outside Woman Blues’;


When Eric Clapton included one of those 1929 Paramount songs ‘Outside Woman Blues’ on Cream’s debut album ‘Disraeli Gears’ in 1966, Blind Joe was still out there on the road somewhere. The track was credited to ‘Arthur Reynolds’ but Joe did not survive long enough for the royalties to flood in from this big selling album, as he passed away in Monroe LA in 1968 from a stroke complicated by pneumonia. The History of the Blues is littered with characters like Blind Joe Reynolds: men who lived the life they sang about, made a lot of money for somebody else, and died an unknown figure, destined for a poor man’s grave.